Amid dwindling fish stocks, local fisherfolk have been warned that by their own harvesting practices, they run the risk of killing off their very own livelihoods.
The warning came Sunday from Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer Joyce Leslie, who said some fishermen were in the habit of catching small dolphins that were not yet sexually mature, therefore negatively affecting the reproductive cycle and “reducing the number of recruits to successfully further fish generation”.
Addressing members of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organisations during a church service at People’s Cathedral on Sunday ahead of Fisherman Day on June 29, Leslie also highlighted the recent practice of using a mesh gill net size smaller than the recommended size in the capture of flying fish.
She further pointed out that many of the 6,000 persons directly or indirectly employed in the fishing industry were also guilty of contaminating the sea, making it less habitable for fish.
“Damage can be caused by polluting the seas with garbage coming from the near shore, including garbage from boatyard areas,” the fisheries official said, while serving notice that new legislation was coming to make it compulsory for fisher folk to produce accurate reports on the amount of fish caught and where the catch was made.
She also revealed that Cabinet had recently approved changes to improve the Fisheries Act to address issues of vessel safety and construction standards, while serving notice that the Fisheries Department would soon be charging “small fees for services rendered”.
In an effort to show how the island’s fish stock had declined over the years, she explained that while annual fish production had averaged 6,000 tonnes in the 1980s, it fell to 4,000 tonnes in the 1990s.
This declined even further between 2012 and 2015 when a significant fall in flying fish catches was observed, representing only 354 tonnes down from an annual landing of between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes.
Leslie also said that the massive incursions of Sargassum seaweed over the last two to three years had also contributed to dwindling fish stock.